In this week’s session, Michael Barber spoke with experts Niki Blaker and Ashley MacQuarrie about logos, colors, and what to keep in mind when it comes to design and charter schools. “If you think about the most successful logos, they’re really simple forms,” she told this week’s viewers of YouTube Live, “What matters more is how the logo functions across all your materials.”
What about colors? How should charter schools choose them? How might different colors be suited to a performing arts school versus a STEM-focused school? Watch the video below or read the transcript for more tips!
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Michael B (00:26):
Well, hi, everyone. Welcome back to our Thursday EM Live 10 Minute Chats on Thursday mornings or afternoon, wherever you are in the world on all things enrollment marketing. My name is Michael Barber and I’m your host. As usual, I have my colleague as usual. Ashley MacQuarrie is here today with us who’s our director of enrollment marketing, and we have a special guest. Will special guest number one, please introduce theirselves?
Niki B (00:54):
Hello, I’m Niki Blaker and I thank you, Michael, for the introduction. I work with Charter School Capital on all things brand and design and it’s such a pleasure to be here today.
Michael B (01:06):
Well, we appreciate you being here, Niki. We are big fans of yours. We work with Niki across many of our enrollment marketing clients on all things brand and design. A couple of weeks ago, we got a lot of questions about brand and design, so what we are going to do is dive right into those questions and hear from our guest speaker’s perspective on this. First question, Niki, we would love if you tell us how you define brand.
Niki B (01:35):
Absolutely. A great brand comes from a place of truth, of the authentically what your school represents, what the process and approach is for your teaching. When you create that brand manifesto, I know so many schools spend a lot of time talking about their mission and vision and values and that being the driving force, but sometimes the connection isn’t made to how that looks like. Creating that visual brand is really an extension of those values and kind of putting a picture and a story to all those mission statements and the hard work that you’ve put into defining who you are and how you come across to your parents and students.
Michael B (02:24):
I love that definition and appreciate you pontificating on the idea of brand because it is something that I think gets a little bit fuzzy and many of us have our own definition, so it’s good to hear how you approach your work.
Our next thing is tell us the top three things. You’ve worked with what? 60 or so schools at this point? I’d love to know the top three things, if I can pronounce anything this morning, for any charter school leader to know about creating a logo. This was a question that came out of National. For those of you who don’t know, we had Niki at the National conference at our Digital Rebrand Bar and there were so many questions about logos and Niki, I would love to hear what your perspective on what you’ve heard from school leaders at National, what you’ve heard from in the past, but those top three tips for school leaders when it comes to creating a logo.
Niki B (03:14):
Absolutely. The first one is simplicity. This one is really tough because I know both schools and businesses try to communicate a whole lot in the logo, but really if you look at the most successful logos in history, they’re surprisingly simple. You think of the Nike swish and nothing else.
Michael B (03:36):
Okay, hold on y’all.
Niki B (03:37):
That’s the first one.
Michael B (03:38):
I hate to tell you this, but for whatever reason, the stream went down, so we’re just going to start from the top and start over, so I apologize. Y’all ready?
Hi, everybody, and welcome to our Thursday series on YouTube live across all things enrollment marketing. I apologize for our late start this morning. That is my fault. We had a little issue with our streaming software, but we are happy to be here just a few minutes after the top of the hour. As always, I am joined by my colleague Ashley MacQuarrie, our director of enrollment marketing for our Thursday series on all things enrollment, and we have a very special guest, our dear friend, Niki Blaker. Niki, can you introduce yourselves for us?
Niki B (04:46):
Absolutely. Thank you, Michael, for having me. I’m really excited. I’m Niki Blaker. I’m a brand strategist and designer and I’ve had the wonderful opportunity to work with charter school in both their marketing and enrollment marketing team, so thanks for having me today.
Michael B (05:04):
We appreciate you being here. You’ve been a constant companion of ours on these conversations related to enrollment and have worked with us not only across what, 60 or so schools at this point, but also you were one of our guest speakers at our Digital Rebrand Bar at the 2022 National Conference. We got a lot of questions several weeks ago about design and brand, so we decided we would ask if you would come in and talk with us about all things design and brand so that’s why you’re here. I want to start us off with a broad question about brand, and specifically for Niki, tell us how you define brand.
Niki B (05:42):
Absolutely. When I think of a brand, I think of what is the exposition of where you’re coming from and your truth and your authenticity, of what you represent and what you provide to others? When you do the work to put together your mission and vision and values or your educational approach, basically it’s starting to think about what does that look like? It’s not so much a separate thing, but really the evolution of painting that picture of what your values are.
Michael B (06:18):
I love that definition and I appreciate your perspective because all of us have our own definition of brand and I always love different perspectives on that definition, so thank you for that. Okay, this is a question for both of you. We’ll start with Niki. But in your experience, and I know we got this question quite a bit at the National Conference, but what are your top three tips for creating a logo for a charter school?
Niki B (06:45):
I’ll name the three first. First is simplicity, then being relevant, and then the third one, being versatile. I can speak to those, but I don’t know if you want to go to Ashley first.
Michael B (06:58):
Ashley, what are your top three tips and then we’ll get Niki to pontificate on her three.
Ashley M. (07:04):
Oh, man. I mean, I think this a little bit plays in with simplicity, but just some space to breathe, I feel like. A lot of times, logos have a lot going on and I think you can have a lot of elements that speak to different aspects of your school, but you just still need some of that white space. The other thing is sometimes I see that a logo can’t really be, I just was talking to a school about this the other day, it can’t really be translated to a single color, maybe because the way that it has different colors kind of overlaid and it makes it difficult for them to use it, for example, just in white on a dark background. That just came up, so that’s something. Then, I would say just readability, legibility. A lot of times, we’re using these on banners and people are driving by, so think about where your logo’s going to appear and make sure that it’s legible and if it has the name of your school, that you can actually read it. But I’m not the designer, so I’m excited to hear what-
Niki B (08:04):
No, I’m really glad you said because I know you work with this all the time, so it’s nice to see what you come with when you are experienced with it and you hit exactly the right point. With simplicity, it’s so hard. You want to tell the whole story in one logo, but if you think about the most successful logos, they’re really simple forms, just like the Nike swish. You don’t have an image of a shoe, it’s not literal. You think about really you only focus on the logo so much, it’s really about the execution and how it is with across all your materials.
Sometimes the logo isn’t the most important part. It’s a small memorable mark, but it doesn’t have to tell the whole story. Then, the same point with versatility. It’s so difficult to think all the use cases you’re going to have for it until you start having to create those things. Will your logo work just as well on a one-inch sticker that you’re passing out to a nine-foot sign? You have to think about the scale and how the elements in the logo will work properly. Again, like you said with the colors, if you’ve got a lot of colors in there, is it easy to make a shirt and screen print in a full color? Can you reduce it to a two color and still have that work as well? It’s easier to think about all the possible use cases before going into the creation of that logo.
Michael B (09:34):
On the topic of colors, I want to spend some time here because this becomes both a philosophical question about colors, but it also becomes a technical question so I want to start on the philosophical side of the house first. Niki, this was a question that was prompted from a YouTube Live we did about, let’s see here, about two or three weeks ago, I think, and that viewer asked, “Hey, tell us the best colors to use.” I would just love to hear from a philosophical standpoint first your thoughts on colors and color usage.
Niki B (10:10):
Well, the toughest part to swallow about this is you’ve got to take personal preference out of it. Just because you happen to like blue and blue is your favorite color does not mean that blue should be in everything. It all goes back to going back to your brand values and your brand personality and thinking about what colors best represent those.
For instance, are you a dual language immersion school that emphasizes different cultures? Well, think about bringing the colors from those different cultures to represent your school. Or do you offer more rigid academics, mathematics? Well, think about the colors that would represent that line of education. Those would look very different. One might be more colorful and a little bright and bold while the other one would be more streamlined and it wouldn’t work the other way around.
Michael B (11:03):
One of the things you touched on at National was the idea of using a color wheel to figure out complimentary colors. Can you talk about that for a second?
Niki B (11:11):
Absolutely. There are 64 million colors out there. Where do you even start? Sometimes it goes, you know, go back to basics, to what you learned in elementary school, red, yellow, green and what works with those colors. There’s so many tools online that let you create that color palette so that you can create something that is a little bit more cohesive. Just going back to the basic color theory and understanding how the colors work together really help. It’s pretty simple. If you like Google Color Theory, you will find so much information, but I’m happy to provide some URLs after this of some resources that let you pick color palettes that work really well together.
Michael B (11:59):
For sure. Yeah, if anybody wants those resources, you can just drop your question into the YouTube screen or on your app and we will make sure we get answers to you. We’ll DM them your way. Okay, so we talked philosophical approach to colors. Now I want to get a little bit more practical. Part of the whole point of this series is just to demystify everything related to enrollment so that we give people actionable advice. One thing I know, if you are a non-designer, you don’t understand what some of these terms mean, like CMYK and RGB. Can you just explain the key difference between different types of colors and why they’re applicable and why you need to have it as a part of your brand?
Niki B (12:39):
Absolutely. If you want to get super sciencey, for digital work, we use RGB because when you’re looking at your screen, those colors that come to our eyes are developed by light, by using red, green and blue. But when you’re printing an ink, ink does not work the same way, that uses a four-color process of cyan, yellow, magenta and black, which is where the CMYK comes from. Those have different values. Sometimes they don’t translate exactly from one to the next. Sometimes you’ll find that you have a certain color on your screen and if you give that same exact color to a print, it may look a bit muted. You have to do a little bit of conversion to get the match to work. When you are building your color palette, you want to take into consideration the values for the screen and how it converts properly to print.
Michael B (13:37):
Such good insight there and I know anybody that doesn’t have a design background is sometimes like flummoxed when they get these requests from printers and whatnot. Now you really understand why you’re getting those requests because we’ve got to be able to process that color correctly to make things happen on screen printing or business cards or yard signs or banners, whatever those things may be.
Okay, I’ve got one more question, but I do want to allow any of our viewers today, we’ve got about 14 or 15 live viewers with us right now. If you have any questions, please feel free to pop them into the chat window on YouTube Live and we’ll get to them. But my last question is this. As always, we face challenges as marketers or designers working with charter schools. Would love to know from both of you, what are the challenges that you see all the time when working with existing schools brands? I’ll start with Niki. Let’s go Niki first and then we’ll come back to Ashley.
Niki B (14:36):
Sure. One thing I could speak to and specifically to logos, since we were chatting about that, I know schools don’t always have the resources to hire a professional designer. A lot of times, there might be a volunteer or a parent or student that designs the logo and I am all for that. Yeah, I love that process.
But sometimes what happens is because of the tools used in creating that logo, you then find some problems down the road. For instance, if a logo is created in Canva or Photoshop, it’s not in the format that’s called a vector, which means it’s not easily scalable. You’ll then find that you can’t use it on a signage because it will look blurry or pixelated or you can’t make edits to the logo, like changing it so it’s black and white very easily. That has been one of the things I’ve done with the enrollment team, is recreating logos into a vector format and still keeping the same design and spirit of the same logo with some small fixes. But that is a pretty important consideration when creating it to just double-check the tools using when you’re creating that logo.
Michael B (15:53):
Such good advice. Ashley, what are some challenges you’ve had or the teams had when working with existing school brands?
Ashley M. (16:00):
I think this relates to what Niki said. I think a lot of these, our schools, maybe they have volunteers who have helped with their branding or helped with flyer design and things like that. I think consistency starts to become a problem because somebody designed this logo, but we don’t know what font it was, and we don’t actually have those RGB or CMYK colors so maybe the next person who uses it just uses their little eyedropper tool or just makes a guess in Canva. Well, this blue looks close enough and then, now you have all these different iterations of your colors and everybody’s using different fonts and everything that comes out that represents your school visually looks a little bit different and nobody really knows what to use, and so it can start to look a little bit muddled and that’s when we bring on somebody like Niki to say, help! Please recreate the logo with fonts that we know that we can use and file formats that we can use and also help us define, okay, these are the fonts we use, these are the colors we use, this is the tagline, and distribute that to anybody who’s creating anything for you. That’s something that we often come to Niki for.
Michael B (17:16):
For sure. Let’s wrap up with tools questions. Niki, you mentioned one tool. You actually mentioned several tools, so Canva, Adobe, there are others that are out there. I would love to hear just your thoughts, your feedback on obviously those respective tools, the experience someone would need, level of experience to use those tools because there’s pros and cons, right? But just give us an idea of why use Canva? Why not use Canva? Why use Adobe? Why not use Adobe? Would love your thoughts there.
Niki B (17:50):
Absolutely. I mean, the nice thing with tools like Canva is that they’re accessible to everyone. That’s probably the lowest learning curve, and I have nothing against it. They’re so great for social media graphics, digital ad banners for a lot of things online. I think some of the limitations with Canva come when you have things like print materials because you don’t always get that resolution or some of the things that print vendors require, like bleeds and crop marks. Those aren’t things that Canva can really provide.
That’s when you take the next step up to the Adobe suite. I know that is challenging. I mean, this is why I have a background in design and learn how to use the tools. I think someone opening InDesign or Illustrator, they see so many features in there, you don’t know where to start. I think it’s a balance between doing things yourself and then realizing when you should outsource things to a professional. One thing I like to do to help with that is create templates, editable templates. The things that need to be done in a professional format, good, but then I can assist with creating templates in Canva, having that foundation, and then you can update the text and details without worrying about the technical output of it.
Michael B (19:24):
It’s such a good point and there’s pros and cons to both, but I think you nailed it on the head, if you will, that one of the things schools need to do is carve out some budget to work with a designer to get their brand-related files in the right place so they become more usable, whether they’re using a Canva or they’re doing it internally on their own.
I’ll also throw in a tip here as someone who has led any number of brand teams and been exposed to, I mean, I don’t know how many brands I’ve worked on in my entire 16 years of career, but organize your files and make sure, I know, both of you are laughing at this, but like it is, and there’s an appropriate laugh because we’ve all seen it in our careers, is as you’re getting logo files, name folders, logos, put them in the right places. That will help so much.
Of course, many of our school leaders are on Google Drive, so it makes it easy for you obviously, to have a top-level brand folder, be able to segment your assets into folder, move old stuff into archive folder, so people don’t use an old logo or an old ad, or maybe an image that wasn’t supposed to get used or is 10 years old at this point and doesn’t really represent your school so that’ll be my tip of the day.
On that note, we are well past our 10 minutes of time caused by yours truly for a little streaming issue this morning. But I just want to give a big shout and a thank you to Niki for joining us today and all your continued work on the schools and the school leaders we work on. Ashley and I very much appreciate it, as do our school leaders appreciate the amazing work that you do for them to drive kids into their schools.
With that, I will say thank you to both of our guests, Ashley MacQuarrie, our director of enrollment marketing at Charter School Capital. I will say thank you again to Niki Blaker who works with us across a number of our schools for our enrollment marketing platform. We will hopefully, see you next week. Next Thursday, we’ll have another guest from our team on to talk about all things enrollment marketing along with Ashley and myself so thanks again for joining us and we’ll see you next week.
Niki B (21:35):
Michael B (22:00):
Out. All right, we are out.
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Since the company’s inception in 2006, Charter School Capital has been committed to the success of charter schools. We help schools access, leverage, and sustain the resources charter schools need to thrive, allowing them to focus on what matters most – educating students. Our depth of experience working with charter school leaders and our knowledge of how to address charter school financial and operational needs have allowed us to provide over $1.8 billion in support of 600 charter schools that have educated over 1,027,000 students across the country. For more information on how we can support your charter school, contact us. We’d love to work with you!